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Save a Life: Use a Mobile

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Part of the MOA’s remit, as you may well have already realised if you are reading this on our website, is about health issues relating to the use of mobile phone technology. And a couple of recent reports show how mobile phones save lives and help deliver better healthcare.

One study showed that around 137 more lives are saved per 100,000 patients when emergency services are called from a mobile phone compared to a landline phone. That was based on analysis of emergency responses at two NHS hospitals over a ten year period.

I guess that’s not so surprising. Your mobile lets you phone for an ambulance, in a medical emergency, without having to find a landline. That may not be a problem if the emergency happens at home, but it might well be if you are out and about. And over half a million calls are made to the emergency services on mobile phones every week. Mobiles also allow deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired people to contact the emergency services via SMS text messaging.

Perhaps less immediately obvious is the way that mobiles can improve health outcomes in non-emergency situations and improve efficiency in healthcare systems. But now, a couple of academics from Finland have produced a report highlighting how this is indeed the case.

One simple way is the use of text messaging to remind patients to keep their appointments. Some missed appointments are unavoidable, but many are simply the result of people forgetting. There are about five and half million missed appointments in the NHS every year, and rearranging them entails a cost. If text reminders cut missed appointments by only 10 percent, the NHS could probably afford to employ four or five hundred extra nurses.

The use of text messaging allows patients with conditions like diabetes or asthma to report results of home measurements, such as blood glucose levels or peak flow, to their health care providers. That then allows the doctor or nurse to let the patient know if they need to alter the dose of their medicine, or carry on as before, or if they need to visit their physician for a review.

The use of texting by healthcare professionals also makes a difference to success rates in healthy lifestyle programmes or self-management programmes for things like weight-management or smoking cessation. And for those taking a cocktail of medicines, such as patients with HIV, text message reminders about when to take their medication improves compliance with treatment regimes.

None of this sounds very dramatic, and would probably make for a pretty dull episode of ‘Casualty’. But reminding people to turn up for appointments, or helping patients comply with their treatment regimes, can make a huge difference to the health outcomes of those patients and is good for the NHS.

John Cooke


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Mobile Operators Association

The Mobile Operators Association (MOA) represents the four UK mobile network operators – EE (the company that runs EE, Orange & T-Mobile in the UK), O2, Three, and Vodafone – on radio frequency (RF) health and safety, and related town planning issues associated with the use of mobile phone technology.

The Economy and Society

Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In early 2015 61% of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households, increasing from 44% in Q1 2014.